by Bryan Everson
Former players, current players, political figures, long-time friends and family; all the fanfare for not just a building, but a man, and what he’s meant within a community.
They all gathered last Friday for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Garth Pleasant Arena, the 23,000-square-foot arena that will host the basketball and volleyball teams at Rochester College.
“So many have come,” Pleasant said in a speech to all those attending as part of the festivities. “I couldn’t believe it when three car-loads of my high school classmates showed up.
“We graduated 67 years ago,” he joked before the speech became an emotional tribute to not just those that he’s shaped, but the people in his life that shaped him as well.
“To say this is a surreal occasion would be an underestimate.”
Among the others that spoke before the long-time coach were Oakland County Commissioner L. Brooks Patterson and Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett.
“Having watched from my position across the street and as a resident just across the road, we love having Rochester College in our community, Barnett said. “We love celebrating with you Garth’s success, his son’s [his successor, current men’s basketball coach and athletic director] Klint’s success athletically. And, of course, all the academic achievements that happen on this college campus.
“We believe it will transform not only the college campus here, but the way the community views Rochester College as well.
Barnett, who played for Garth at a youth camp years ago, echoed some of the comments about Garth that made him such a revered coach.
“I remember some of the lessons I learned there, not only lessons about basketball, but lessons about becoming a good community leader, a good husband and a good father,” Barnett said.
Pleasant, who now serves as the college’s chair for the physical education department, spent 38 years leading the men’s hoops program and won over 700 games. His retirement after the 2010-11 season was commemorated and celebrated throughout the community, including by good friend and automotive dealer Bill Fox, who also spoke briefly at the ceremony.
The construction, to be done by Rochester company Frank Rewold and Son Inc., is estimated to be completed in February 2017. The arena is set to seat 868 for sporting events, and total capacity for the building will exceed 1,500.